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Members of the PEB's boys' volleyball team celebrate their victory and their advancement to the Finales des Jeux de l'Acadie. ROBERT D'EON PHOTO
CLARE, N.S. – Among the people who could be affected by the labour situation with Nova Scotia’s teachers are the many athletes hoping to take part in Nova Scotia’s Jeux de l’Acadie.
The Acadian Games for the province are scheduled to be held in Clare on the third weekend in May, but the fate of this year’s games is uncertain because of what’s going on with the teachers and if aspects of work to rule -- including not volunteering for extras -- continues as the school year goes on.
Odette Gaudet, president of the local organizing committee in Clare, said the games likely would bring in about 1,000 people all told, including athletes, coaches, volunteers and the like.
Teachers are heavily involved in the games as coaches and volunteers and, as of mid-February – as legislation to impose a contract on teachers was being debated in the legislature – a spokesman for Nova Scotia’s Acadian Games said the status of this year’s games remained uncertain.
“Since a large portion of our volunteers are teachers and many are a part of the organizing committee, the committee has decided to make a final decision on Feb. 28,” said Chris Frotten, speaking on behalf of Nova Scotia’s Comité Provincial des Jeux de l’Acadie.
Since a large portion of our volunteers are teachers and many are a part of the organizing committee, the committee has decided to make a final decision on Feb. 28. Chris Frotten, speaking on behalf of Nova Scotia’s Comité Provincial des Jeux de l’Acadie.
Frotten was vice-president of the provincial committee, but he stepped in as president after Angie Aucoin, who had been president, stepped away from the position because she is a teacher.
Said Frotten, referring to this year’s Nova Scotia games – and how to proceed if they are called off – “Right now we are in limbo.”
Asked whether parents and community members could step in and fill the gap in coaching and volunteering if teachers aren’t able to, Frotten said that is a question they can't answer right now.
“At this time we’ve held off all organization of the regional games because the organizing committee is formed primarily of volunteers that are teachers,” he said, noting the host school area runs the local regional committee of the games.
Frotten said the Acadian Games are a great event and that the kids look forward to them every year, but organizers have also tried not to interfere in what has been happening in terms of negotiations and contract talks over the past few months.
“We just felt like it was a good idea to back away until the end of February to allow them to do their thing. Whenever it ends, we’ll be able to make a clearer final decision,” he said.
In larger regions Frotten said if needed you probably could find parent and community volunteers to replace the teachers. In past years, Frotten said his region has seen around a 50/50 split of teacher coaches and volunteers and parent/community coaches and volunteers.
“It’s part of our region, it’s part of culture, it’s part of our history,” he said, so there is strong interest in Les Jeux. In other places of the province, all of the coaches are teachers.
“But again, because the organizing committee is formed primarily of teachers and because a lot of the other regions wouldn’t be able to organize their region to participate, we just felt it was a better idea to completely put a hold on things until Feb. 28.”
Jillian Comeau, executive director of the Comité Provincial des Jeux de l’Acadie for Nova Scotia, also says many young athletes look forward to the games. She cites as well the games’ economic impact on the area that hosts them. Students stay in the schools but the games bring in a large number of visitors.
“It’s a large event,” she said. “They stay in our hotels. They eat our food. They purchase gas.”
The Nova Scotia games bring together athletes from 11 regions across the province, including the tri-county regions of Clare and Par-en-Bas. The Nova Scotia games are a qualifier for the Finale des Jeux de l’Acadie, which this year will be held in Fredericton.
“We’ve never been in this situation before. We don’t even know, if we don’t have regional games, are we still able to send students to the Finale? And if we can, what does that look like?" said Frotten.
If the games were not able to go ahead in May in the Clare area this year, the region would host next year instead.
Students demonstrated their Acadian pride during the opening ceremonies of Les Finale des Jeux de l'Acadie when they were held in Yarmouth County years ago.